Chad Feehan got his feet wet producing the classic (and still unreleased) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane before jumping behind the camera for Wake, his Shining-inspired psychological thriller premiering at the SXSW Film Festival this month.
His producing talents have an immediate effect on this low budget indie project as Wake is tonally the same as Many Lane, only a completely different subgenre. Wake carries a bleak, nitty-gritty tone that’s strung together by the cinematography, set design and acting prowess of Josh Stewart (a highly underrated actor in Hollywood).
Driving to a wedding in Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert, Paul (Stewart) and Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pull off the highway and into Roy’s Motel and Café. This roadside artifact proves to be a strange and surreal place with an unsettling mix of travelers that are all intertwined in some cosmic way.
While the first two acts are satisfying and incredibly engaging, the finale is so ill-conceived and obvious that it’s the first movie of this new decade that I exclaimed, “Man, that was so the 2000’s.” To prove my point, I’ll let you in on a little plot point that happens in the opening segment; If you can’t figure out the twist, I don’t know what to tell you: On their way to Los Angeles, Paul and Adrienne almost crash (close call!). Hmmmmmmm….
Even if Wake carries the most obvious twist possible, a well-told story can negate the cliché oversight (Scorsese proves this with Shutter Island). Unfortunately, Feehan treats the audience as feeble morons and crashes the movie into a brick wall. All of the build, all of the intrigue and all of the oddities are explained away in fine detail leaving nothing to the imagination. In fact, he goes as far as to literally seal up every single loose end as to ensure nobody leaves the theater with a thought bubble over their head. The best movies leave you guessing, and that’s a fact.
With a significantly shorter and more ambiguous finale Wake could have really been a solid mind-f*ck. At moments Wake is stylish, creepy and downright bizarre (don’t miss the wonderful sequence in the 24/7 diner). Even though Wake falls short at the end, Feehan still puts on display his ability to craft a well-rounded film and will be on my radar from here on out.
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